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Longtime newsman Forrest Carr dies

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Longtime newsman Forrest Carr dies

  • Carr in April 2015.
    courtesy Deborah CarrCarr in April 2015.

Forrest Carr, a longtime television news director whose career included two stints with Tucson's KGUN, died Wednesday morning.

His wife, Deborah Carr, announced his passing on Facebook:

It is with a very heavy heart, that I report that my dear, beloved Forrest Carr passed away early this morning after a valiant battle with cancer. Forrest loved life, and, in many ways, had a larger-than-life personality. Even at the final moments, he was smiling and sharing his unique brand of humor. I want to thank you, friends near and far, for your prayers and your kindness to Forrest and I these past difficult months. Forrest made many friends along his life's journey, and I know he would want me to tell you how much he loved you all. Peace be with you.

He was the news director for Tucson's channel 9 from 2009-2013, following newsroom leadership positions in Albuquerque, Fort Myers, Tampa and San Antonio. He also led the KGUN team from 1997 through 2001.

Carr, 58, had most recently hosted an AM talk radio show on Powertalk 1210, but halted that afternoon program last spring as his cancer metastasized.

Carr battled transitional cell carcinoma for some time, and was open and matter-of-fact about his experiences, both discussing his health and impending death on air and blogging about it.

"... oh yeah, I have cancer, which makes me the Walter White of bloggers," he jested.

He last posted online on Friday, writing that "Some days are better than others, and some days are very much better. Yesterday, not a good day," and expressing his love for his wife.

Last fall, he wrote, "as I celebrate (and I do mean celebrate, with all the gusto I can muster) the arrival of my 58th birthday tomorrow (Friday, September 18) one thing seems pretty clear: it’s very unlikely there’ll be a 59th."

"It's kind of slap in the face to hear those words from a friend, isn't it? It's one big bucket of cold water. But it's also nothing but the truth.... I didn't set out to write a blog about dying, you know. It just sort of morphed into that."

Often gruff, Carr was direct and honest, and thought reporters should be just that.

An Ethics Fellow at the prestigious Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., Carr was a proponent of ethics and transparency in the news industry, who believed the 1st Amendment was a "covenant with fellow citizens." He crafted a "Viewers' Bill of Rights" and held his newsrooms to it.

"The world lost a source of positive energy today. Forrest was a friend, teacher, mentor, leader who enjoyed working hard and laughing while he did it," former colleague Steve Andrews of WFLA Tampa told Poynter on Wednesday.

Carr "had a passion for news. He clearly understood the watchdog role the media played in our society and its importance," Andrews, an investigative reporter, told Poynter's Al Tompkins. "When all hell broke loose in a newsroom, he was never shy about, first carefully putting down his Dr. Pepper, rolling up his sleeves, jumping into the fire and pounding out the news on a keyboard."

"Co-workers often said he was direct, a tad intimidating and honest to the core.... But he will probably be best remembered by the greater media community as a fierce champion of ethics and transparency in journalism," Tompkins wrote, saying, "I promised my old friend Forrest Carr that when he died, I would write about what he hoped would be one of his enduring contributions to journalism."

Tompkins pulled this from a 2007 essay by Carr that explained his philosophy about the practice of journalism:

Part of what drives this is personal. I was a viewer before I was a journalist. As the former, I always thought journalists got it wrong — that the First Amendment was not a right nor a gift bestowed on journalists from on high, but rather a covenant with fellow citizens. In naming journalism as the only commercial enterprise to receive constitutional protection, our nation's founders expected something in return. Journalists' part of the bargain is to help uphold democracy. Advocating the right of common people to be heard is more important today than it's ever been. People speak at the ballot box once every two years for the most part. But through the modern news media, those in power learn a little bit about public opinion every day. That process has a continuous effect on public policy.

Carr "strove to leave the world a little better than he found it," his wife wrote on Facebook. "I believe he succeeded in that mission and that he would have been surprised and honored to think that he made such a difference. I know he certainly changed and enriched my life in ways I never dreamed. I am so very grateful for every second we had together and every memory that we made, which I cherish."

A Memphis, Tenn., native, Carr was a 1980 graduate of the University of Memphis.

His professional recognitions included some 90 awards, including a Suncoast Regional Emmy for investigative reporting, two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for investigative reporting, a Walter Cronkite large-market station award for excellence in television political journalism, and a national Edward R. Murrow station award for best website.

He authored two novels, the newsroom thriller "Messages" and sci-fi book "A Journal of the Crazy Year," and co-authored the textbook "Broadcast News Handbook."

The family plans to hold a memorial service in Memphis on Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m., at the Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery, 5668 Poplar Ave., Memphis, Tenn.

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